UF encounters skepticism from employees over health insurance plan


Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 6:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 6:45 p.m.

As the University of Florida seeks to provide its own health-insurance plan for employees, some faculty members are expressing skepticism about the idea.

UF is seeking legislative approval to opt out of the state health-care program and self-insure its employees. UF&Shands Health System President Dr. David Guzick presented the idea Thursday to the Faculty Senate, trying to alleviate concerns about issues such as choice of doctors.



"If you have a longstanding relationship with a physician in the community, we don't want to get in the middle of that relationship," Guzick said. "That will continue, (and) we will encourage the community physicians to join our panel."

But several faculty members raised concerns about how the plan would work. James Klausner, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, said employees are attracted to UF in part because of health coverage. The university must alleviate worries about service and the use of doctors other than Shands physicians, he said.

"There must be an element of choice in the health plan for me to be attracted to this institution," Klausner said.

Guzick said the plan would include an option to go to out-of-network physicians but include incentives to pick doctors who are affiliated with UF&Shands or become part of the network. They might include financial incentives and providing access to next-day medical care and wellness programs.

"We haven't yet determined all the details," Guzick said.

UF President Bernie Machen's previous two institutions, the Universities of Utah and Michigan, self-insure their employees. Machen has long sought the ability to do so at UF and made it a top priority of the current legislative session. If passed, the so-called GatorCare plan would have a fall enrollment period and start Jan. 1, 2013.

Faculty Senate Chairman Scott Nygren said the potential for state cuts to health benefits provides reason for self-insurance. Under the plan, UF would get the money that the state would have provided for health coverage and use it for its own plan. Premiums still would be set by the state, according to UF.

Guzick said UF would be able to provide better benefits at a lower cost by working to keep employees healthy and away from expensive services, unlike physicians with incentives to send patients to them. In addition, Guzick said, UF employees would benefit from the savings of not having an insurance company providing coverage.

"We can capture the dollars that are going to the insurance company. It's just that simple," he said.

Charles Guy, environmental horticulture professor and interim department chairman, said employees will remain skeptical about the plan without additional details. He went through a long list of unanswered questions, including what would be covered by the plan and the costs associated with it.

"This is my plea: Get the information to us before there's no going back," Guy said. "Please allow the opportunity to see how self-insurance will stack up against what we currently have."

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com. For more stories on the University of Florida, visit www.thecampussun.com.

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